Latin America can now lead the way on abortion rights | Women’s rights

With the United States Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade – the landmark 1973 decision that enshrined abortion rights in the United States – the world map of abortion rights has been flipped.

Whereas in the second half of the 20th century the global North was at the forefront of abortion law reform, with the United States among its main exponents, today it is the feminist movements and Latin American transfeminists who advance discussions that put reproductive autonomy and gender justice at center stage.

Over the past quarter century, more than 50 countries have liberalized abortion laws, but three recent cases in Latin America stand out. In December 2020, Argentina decriminalized and legalized abortion up to the 14th week of gestation. In 2021, Mexico declared the criminalization of abortion unconstitutional, although access to abortion still varies by state. In February this year, Colombia legalized abortion during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy.

The movement that led to the liberalization of abortion laws in many Latin American countries has its roots in Argentina.

The origins of the struggle for legal abortion in Argentina date back at least to the 1970s, when feminist health organizations across the continent and some progressive political parties began to assert the need to decriminalize abortion. However, the movement’s turning point came in 2003, when efforts to legalize abortion were incorporated into the agenda of the National Assembly of Women in Argentina (ENM) – an annual gathering that brings together women from different provinces across the country to discuss ways to achieve gender equality. Two years later, the National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion, a civil society collective joining forces to support abortion law reform, was formed.

The green bandana quickly became a symbol of the campaign, and it quickly became the symbol of demands for reproductive justice across Argentina.

The green color was not chosen at random. In the Argentine social imagination, green represents liveliness and health, and by using green as the main color, the campaign sent a strong and clear message that abortion is health care and that, for many, it is is a lifesaver.

We wore the green bandanas around our raised fists, or tied them to our purses and backpacks, to express our demand for change and also show feminist solidarity.

Our campaign for legalization has grown steadily over the years. With labor organizations, academics, political parties, LGTBQ+ activists, human rights organizations, teachers, healthcare providers, journalists, artists and eventually young people from all walks of life, our movement s quickly morphed into what became known across the world. like the Green Wave. In 2018, the green wave flooded the streets across the country.

From 1921 to 2020, Argentine law guaranteed access to a legal abortion only under certain conditions: when the pregnancy endangered the life or health of the pregnant person, or when it resulted from rape.

In 2018, thanks to the Green Wave effect, a bill submitted to the House of Representatives to expand access to legal abortion and greater reproductive autonomy passed the debate stage for the first time. The women’s movement worked tirelessly to bring demands for reproductive justice to the top of the public agenda during this period. Demonstrations were held across the country and two large vigils were held in Buenos Aires to coincide with debates in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Through these efforts, the abortion discussion has received significant media attention. Reproductive justice also began to be discussed in schools and homes across Argentina.

The Senate still voted to reject the proposed bill in 2018, but the cultural battle over abortion was undoubtedly won that year. Abortion has ceased to be a taboo and has become a central issue of public debate. The Green Wave had become unstoppable. Argentinian women have made it clear that they don’t want to stop until they achieve reproductive autonomy.

This paved the way for the 2019 presidential and legislative elections to be dominated by discussions of sexual and reproductive rights. The candidates, for the first time in the history of Argentina, found it necessary to make their positions on abortion public because a significant percentage of voters were unwilling to vote for candidates who had not not committed to promoting gender equality and reproductive autonomy.

And, finally, the green wave succeeded.

After a long and difficult fight – and in the midst of a global pandemic – abortion was legalized in Argentina on December 30, 2020. On this historic day, after a heated 12-hour debate, the Senate passed a bill which allows voluntary termination of pregnancy up to and including the 14th week of gestation and has given Argentine women control over their bodies.

The Green Wave achieved this victory by ensuring that abortion was considered a non-partisan topic of public debate related to women’s rights and health. As a result, many lawmakers were able to break partisan loyalties to vote for the bill.

Argentina’s countryside inspired many others in the region, with the green bandana adopted by feminists across Latin America. Mexico and Colombia eventually followed in Argentina’s footsteps.

Today, as these countries celebrate the progress they have made, the United States is trying to come to terms with a Supreme Court ruling that will pave the way for the imposition of severe restrictions on women’s access to safe and legal abortions. In several US states, women now risk completely losing their right to abortion, a right essential to public health, gender equality and human rights.

This is undoubtedly a cause for concern. The United States has taken a huge step backwards when it comes to reproductive justice. But the Argentine experience shows that the realization of the right to abortion is not a linear process. Any step forward can be followed by a step back. And while many in the United States may now feel like all is lost, Latin America is demonstrating that there is always hope – raising our voices, taking to the streets, demanding that our voices be heard and getting organized works even in the most desperate scenarios.

The Argentinian Green Wave can now serve as a model for feminist and transfeminist movements around the world. Drawing on the experiences of activists in other countries and incorporating the lessons they have learned into local battles is fundamental to advancing reproductive rights and ensuring reproductive autonomy for all women and people at risk of becoming pregnant. , around the world.

The fight is far from over. Feminist and transfeminist movements around the world must continue to support and provide feedback to each other until everyone can make free and informed decisions about their own bodies.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.